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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Mike and Psmith -> Chapter 4

Mike and Psmith - Chapter 4

1. Preface

2. Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 9

11. Chapter 10

12. Chapter 11

13. Chapter 12

14. Chapter 13

15. Chapter 14

16. Chapter 15

17. Chapter 16

18. Chapter 17

19. Chapter 18

20. Chapter 19

21. Chapter 20

22. Chapter 21

23. Chapter 22

24. Chapter 23

25. Chapter 24

26. Chapter 25

27. Chapter 26

28. Chapter 27

29. Chapter 28

30. Chapter 29

31. Chapter 30



Psmith, in the matter of decorating a study and preparing tea in it, was
rather a critic than an executant. He was full of ideas, but he
preferred to allow Mike to carry them out. It was he who suggested that
the wooden bar which ran across the window was unnecessary, but it was
Mike who wrenched it from its place. Similarly, it was Mike who
abstracted the key from the door of the next study, though the idea
was Psmith's.

"Privacy," said Psmith, as he watched Mike light the gas ring, "is what
we chiefly need in this age of publicity. If you leave a study door
unlocked in these strenuous times, the first thing you know is, somebody
comes right in, sits down, and begins to talk about himself. I think
with a little care we ought to be able to make this room quite decently
comfortable. That putrid calendar must come down, though. Do you think
you could make a long arm, and haul it off the parent tintack? Thanks.
We make progress. We make progress."

"We shall jolly well make it out of the window," said Mike, spooning up
tea from a paperbag with a postcard, "if a sort of young Hackenschmidt
turns up and claims the study. What are you going to do about it?"

"Don't let us worry about it. I have a presentiment that he will be an
insignificant-looking little weed. How are you getting on with the
evening meal?"

"Just ready. What would you give to be at Eton now? I'd give something
to be at Wrykyn."

"These school reports," said Psmith sympathetically, "are the very
dickens. Many a bright young lad has been soured by them. Hello, what's
this, I wonder."

A heavy body had plunged against the door, evidently without a suspicion
that there would be any resistance. A rattling of the handle followed,
and a voice outside said, "Dash the door!"

"Hackenschmidt!" said Mike.

"The weed," said Psmith. "You couldn't make a long arm, could you, and
turn the key? We had better give this merchant audience. Remind me later
to go on with my remarks on school reports. I had several bright things
to say on the subject."

Mike unlocked the door, and flung it open. Framed in the entrance was a
smallish, freckled boy, wearing a pork-pie hat and carrying a bag. On
his face was an expression of mingled wrath and astonishment.

Psmith rose courteously from his chair, and moved forward with slow
stateliness to do the honors.

"What the dickens," inquired the newcomer, "are you doing here?"

"We were having a little tea," said Psmith, "to restore our tissues
after our journey. Come in and join us. We keep open house, we Psmiths.
Let me introduce you to Comrade Jackson. A stout fellow. Homely in
appearance, perhaps, but one or us. I am Psmith. Your own name will
doubtless come up in the course of general chitchat over the teacups."

"My name's Spiller, and this is my study."

Psmith leaned against the mantelpiece, put up his eyeglass, and
harangued Spiller in a philosophical vein.

"Of all sad words of tongue or pen," said he, "the saddest are these:
'It might have been.' Too late! That is the bitter cry. If you had torn
yourself from the bosom of the Spiller family by an earlier train, all
might have been well. But no. Your father held your hand and said
huskily, 'Edwin, don't leave us!' Your mother clung to you weeping, and
said, 'Edwin, stay!' Your sisters--"

"I want to know what--"

"Your sisters froze on to your knees like little octopuses (or octopi),
and screamed, 'Don't go, Edwin!' And so," said Psmith, deeply affected
by his recital, "you stayed on till the later train; and, on arrival,
you find strange faces in the familiar room, a people that know not
Spiller." Psmith went to the table, and cheered himself with a sip of
tea. Spiller's sad case had moved him greatly.

The victim of Fate seemed in no way consoled.

"It's beastly cheek, that's what I call it. Are you new chaps?"

"The very latest thing," said Psmith.

"Well, it's beastly cheek."

Mike's outlook on life was of the solid, practical order. He went
straight to the root of the matter.

"What are you going to do about it?" he asked.

Spiller evaded the question.

"It's beastly cheek," he repeated. "You can't go about the place bagging

"But we do," said Psmith. "In this life, Comrade Spiller, we must be
prepared for every emergency. We must distinguish between the unusual
and the impossible. It is unusual for people to go about the place
bagging studies, so you have rashly ordered your life on the assumption
that it is impossible. Error! Ah, Spiller, Spiller, let this be a
lesson to you."

"Look here, I tell you what it--"

"I was in a car with a man once. I said to him: 'What would happen if
you trod on that pedal thing instead of that other pedal thing?' He
said, 'I couldn't. One's the foot break, and the other's the
accelerator.' 'But suppose you did?' I said. 'I wouldn't,' he said. 'Now
we'll let her rip.' So he stamped on the accelerator. Only it turned out
to be the foot brake after all, and we stopped dead, and skidded into a
ditch. The advice I give to every young man starting life is: 'Never
confuse the unusual and the impossible.' Take the present case. If you
had only realized the possibility of somebody someday collaring your
study, you might have thought out dozens of sound schemes for dealing
with the matter. As it is, you are unprepared. The thing comes on you as
a surprise. The cry goes round: 'Spiller has been taken unawares. He
cannot cope with the situation.'"

"Can't I! I'll--"

"What _are_ you going to do about it?" said Mike.

"All I know is, I'm going to have it. It was Simpson's last term, and
Simpson's left, and I'm next on the house list, so, of course, it's
my study."

"But what steps," said Psmith, "are you going to take? Spiller, the man
of Logic, we know. But what of Spiller, the Man of Action? How do you
intend to set about it? Force is useless. I was saying to Comrade
Jackson before you came in, that I didn't mind betting you were an
insignificant-looking little weed. And you _are_ an
insignificant-looking little weed."

"We'll see what Outwood says about it."

"Not an unsound scheme. By no means a scaly project. Comrade Jackson and
myself were about to interview him upon another point. We may as well
all go together."

The trio made their way to the Presence, Spiller pink and determined,
Mike sullen, Psmith particularly debonair. He hummed lightly as he
walked, and now and then pointed out to Spiller objects of interest by
the wayside.

Mr. Outwood received them with the motherly warmth which was evidently
the leading characteristic of his normal manner.

"Ah, Spiller," he said. "And Smith, and Jackson. I am glad to see you
have already made friends."

"Spiller's, sir," said Psmith, laying a hand patronizingly on the
study-claimer's shoulder--a proceeding violently resented by
Spiller--"is a character one cannot help but respect. His nature expands
before one like some beautiful flower."

Mr. Outwood received this eulogy with rather a startled expression, and
gazed at the object of the tribute in a surprised way.

"Er--quite so, Smith, quite so," he said at last. "I like to see boys in
my house friendly toward one another."

"There is no vice in Spiller," pursued Psmith earnestly. "His heart is
the heart of a little child."

"Please, sir," burst out this paragon of all the virtues, "I--"

"But it was not entirely with regard to Spiller that I wished to speak
to you, sir, if you were not too busy."

"Not at all, Smith, not at all. Is there anything ..."

"Please, sir--" began Spiller

"I understand, sir," said Psmith, "that there is an Archaeological
Society in the school."

Mr. Outwood's eyes sparkled behind their pince-nez. It was a
disappointment to him that so few boys seemed to wish to belong to his
chosen band. Cricket and football, games that left him cold, appeared to
be the main interest in their lives. It was but rarely that he could
induce new boys to join. His colleague, Mr. Downing, who presided over
the School Fire Brigade, never had any difficulty in finding support.
Boys came readily at his call. Mr. Outwood pondered wistfully on this at
times, not knowing that the Fire Brigade owed its support to the fact
that it provided its lighthearted members with perfectly unparalleled
opportunities for ragging, while his own band, though small, was, in the
main, earnest.

"Yes, Smith," he said, "Yes. We have a small Archaeological Society.
I--er--in a measure look after it. Perhaps you would care to become
a member?"

"Please, sir--" said Spiller.

"One moment, Spiller. Do you want to join, Smith?"

"Intensely, sir. Archaeology fascinates me. A grand pursuit, sir."

"Undoubtedly, Smith. I am very pleased, very pleased indeed. I will put
down your name at once."

"And Jackson's, sir."

"Jackson, too!" Mr. Outwood beamed. "I am delighted. Most delighted.
This is capital. This enthusiasm is most capital."

"Spiller, sir," said Psmith sadly, "I have been unable to induce to

"Oh, he is one of our oldest members."

"Ah," said Psmith, tolerantly, "that accounts for it."

"Please, sir--" said Spiller.

"One moment, Spiller. We shall have the first outing of the term on
Saturday. We intend to inspect the Roman Camp at Embury Hill, two miles
from the school."

"We shall be there, sir."


"Please, sir--" said Spiller.

"One moment, Spiller," said Psmith. "There is just one other matter, if
you could spare the time, sir."

"Certainly, Smith. What is that?"

"Would there be any objection to Jackson and myself taking Simpson's old

"By all means, Smith. A very good idea."

"Yes, sir. It would give us a place where we could work quietly in the

"Quite so. Quite so."

"Thank you very much, sir. We will move our things in."

"Thank you very much, sir," said Mike.

"Please, sir," shouted Spiller, "aren't I to have it? I'm next on the
list, sir. I come next after Simpson. Can't I have it?"

"I'm afraid I have already promised it to Smith, Spiller. You should
have spoken before."

"But sir--"

Psmith eyed the speaker pityingly.

"This tendency to delay, Spiller," he said, "is your besetting fault.
Correct it, Edwin. Fight against it."

He turned to Mr. Outwood.

"We should, of course, sir, always be glad to see Spiller in our study.
He would always find a cheery welcome waiting there for him. There is no
formality between ourselves and Spiller."

"Quite so. An excellent arrangement, Smith. I like this spirit of
comradeship in my house. Then you will be with us on Saturday?"

"On Saturday, sir."

"All this sort of thing, Spiller," said Psmith, as they closed the door,
"is very, very trying for a man of culture. Look us up in our study one
of these afternoons."

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